Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sample of Dead Light District - Chapter Four

Saturday, July 18,  10:33 AM

“I’ll have scrambled eggs, home fries, and white toast, please,” I said. I was famished, and a greasy, starchy breakfast would surely hit the spot.

“I’ll have steak and eggs, medium rare steak and eggs over-easy, please, a side order of bacon, home-fries, and an order of rye toast without butter,” said Lindsey.

Oh yeah, like it’s the butter that made the meal fattening.

“I see you’re feeling very Hindu this morning,” I said.

Lindsey’s real name is Lakshmi. Although she was born in Sri Lanka and raised by devout Hindu parents, she is about as Canuck as they come—bring on the beef and bacon.

“I need protein,” she said. “I’ve been working out. Pilates. You should try it.”

“Exercise? What, are you trying to kill me?” I said.

“Would you two please whisper?” Jessica mumbled. “I’m hungover and you’re giving me a headache. Just bring me a coffee please.” Jessica’s normally bright blue eyes were today a mottled shade of watery red, rimmed by dark circles.

A bitter old waitress in a navy polyester uniform and crooked hairnet silently took our orders and shuffled away without giving any indication that she’d heard our requests at all.

I was sitting in the Danforth Café, which really should be renamed ‘Hardened Arteries Eatery’. ‘Café’ just has too much of a positive connotation for a place that hadn’t had a facelift since its grand opening, back in the days when fire was discovered. I was with Jessica and Lindsey, my two best friends, and in Lindsey’s case, my future sister-in-law. Jessica, Lakshmi/Lindsey and I had all known each other since we were teenyboppers. Our friendship is solid, which is why we can get away with saying anything at all to one another.

Lindsey is my brother’s girlfriend. She and Shane finally became a serious couple around two years ago—about a decade later than they should have. They had flirted and teased each other as teens but were both too young, too shy, and too stupid to do anything about it. Then, in early adulthood, the timing had just never been right – one was travelling, the other was in school, one was single, the other wasn’t, et cetera, et cetera.

Finally, a couple of years ago, at a party involving the lethal combination of a bit too much alcohol plus the sledgehammer subtlety of yours truly, Shane and Lindsey had gotten together at last. Now we were all placing bets on when the wedding would be. Any time I mentioned the nuptials, Lindsey magically shut me up by describing in minute detail the horrific tulle and taffeta, puffed-sleeved, pastel-coloured abomination she wanted the bridesmaids to wear.

Well, okay, then, why don’t you just elope? You’d have my blessing.

Lindsey, Jessica and I try to do brunch at least two or three weekends a month. It’s the ritual and conversation that matters, not the food. Good thing too, because it looked like today’s special was Culinary Armageddon.

“So, you’re looking for a Hispanic goddess who was lured into a life of selling her body, and who has now disappeared?” said Lindsey, handing Mary Carmen’s photo back to me.

I nodded. “Yup. What should I call this one? The Case of the Missing Hooker seems too obvious,” I said.

“The Hooker in Hiding?” suggested Jessica. “The Vanishing Vixen? The Wayward Streetwalker? No, wait, The Streetwalker Who Walked Away?”

“No, no, Jessica, you gotta have the Mexican angle in there,” Lindsey said. “Latino something.”

“It’s Latina, not Latino. O endings are for boys and A endings are for girls. Don’t you know anything?” I said.

Not surprisingly, they both ignored me.

Lindsey shrugged. “Whatever. She truly is gorgeous. I wonder why she didn’t go into modelling or something?”

Jessica picked up the photo. “Yeah, she could almost make me switch teams... and after last night’s date, that’s becoming a more distinct possibility.”

“Honey, you’d strike out with the chicks too,” I said.

“Why are we still friends?”

“What a shame she ended up hooking,” Lindsey said. “What a waste.”

“How the hell do you plan to start looking for her?” Jessica asked. “I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“What makes you think I know? Missing persons cases are tough. I’ll chase down every lead Candace gave me and then I’ll pray or consult a Ouija board or buy a lucky rabbit’s foot,” I said.

“Yeah, the furry little paw was certainly lucky for the rabbit it came from,” Jessica said.

“Is that woman going to bring our food anytime soon? I’m going to die of starvation.” Lindsey was craning her neck around to see if she could spot our unfriendly server.

Jessica sighed. “Who cares about food? I need a lot more caffeine. My head feels like it’s wrapped in barbed wire.”

For the next hour we did a fair imitation of Sex and the City. Jessica filled us in on her night out and the reason for this morning’s hangover.

“So, he was a dud?” Lindsey asked Jessica.

“I had to get drunk to keep myself amused. He kept telling the same stories over and over. I couldn’t stop yawning. I dug my fingernails into my palms to keep from falling asleep.”

“Safe to assume then that you didn’t get laid,” I said.

“There’s no way in hell I would have slept with him. Not even with someone else’s pussy.”

“What a charming image,” Lindsey said.

“Well, Sasha, it’ll be interesting to see who gets out of the desert first—you or me,” Jessica said.

“Don’t remind me. It’s been so long since I’ve had my muffin buttered that I think I’ve forgotten how to have sex.”

The unsmiling ‘waitron’ eventually showed up with our food, all of which was either cold and gelatinous or burned to a crisp. I’m sure it takes a special talent to serve food with both ends of the temperature continuum on one plate. Lindsey and I picked at our meals while the three of us talked about men and dating and sex and fashions, then we discussed men and dating and food, after which we chatted about men and sex and shopping. At one point someone mentioned diets and working out, but those veins of conversation were mercifully short lived. Robo Waitress came by with coffee refills, and I dumped four sugars into my cup to make it almost drinkable.

Jessica asked if she could have her coffee served intravenously. The acid-faced server didn’t even pretend to smile.

After a while, I tuned out the girl talk. My mind had started racing. I’d been trying to come up with a plan, and a few—probably not very good—ideas had come to me. I was anxious to finish brunch and get cracking on the Case of the ... what? We still hadn’t come up with a good handle for this one.

Link to Dead Light District on Amazon